At Renovation I attended “How Did We get to Where We Are? A Brief History of the Hugos” with Vincent Docherty, Janice Gelb, Rich Lynch and Mark Plummer, who each contributed interesting stories and exotic trivia.
The fascinating research Mark Plummer shared from 1953 Worldcon progress reports with the committee’s explanation of its newly-invented award is further discussed in his column for the August 1 Strange Horizons, “Rockets in Reno.”
For example, I had never before heard that the 1953 committee encouraged participation by announcing in-progress voting results. Mark says in his column:
Progress report 4 was issued on 1 August 1953 and contain[ed] an update on the voting…. We can see, then, that about four weeks out The Demolished Man was leading over The Long Loud Silence for novel; “old-timer Forrest J Ackerman and new-timer Harlan Ellison” were splitting the votes for Fan Personality….
While remarkable in its own right – such a practice would set off a riot in the blogosphere nowadays – Mark’s information could have been used to immediately settle an old argument if anyone had been aware of it at the time: the question of whether Forry Ackerman’s first Hugo had really been voted by members or was merely the equivalent of today’s committee awards? (See “Ackerman’s Hugo” and “Listing to the Other Side” from 2009.) Since Ackerman and Ellison were “splitting votes for Fan Personality” clearly there’s no room for doubt that the award was put to a vote.
If you have an interest in this slice of fanhistory Mark’s column is well worth your time.